These days there is a much concern about healthy gut bacteria. It’s great when you can defend yourself against certain food born bacteria and a good defense is eating fermented food to help balance the good and bad bacteria floating around in you.
Even if it’s not bugs of the holidays, with all the over processed food conveniently available our guts don’t stand a chance taking on a chemical warfare of flavor enhancers, anti caking agents, and colorants as well. Time to hit the reset button! We need to turn to the things Grandma and Grandpa used to do; that is to say, get back to the basics in our everyday food preparation.
There are a lot of products available at the supermarket and the drug store to help bolster that healthy gut bacteria; things like yogurt, kefir, kombucha and probiotic pills. These things are expensive! Except for the pills, these things can be cultured at home but all one really needs to feed their gut the good stuff is a head of cabbage and some salt.
It is a week long process to culture these healthy bacteria already living on your head of cabbage: Leuconostoc mesenteroides, Lactobacillus brevis, Pediococcus pentosaceus, Lactobacillus plantarum, Lactobacillus bavaricus. All of this can be had for about forty cents. You just have to like sour kraut. Even if you don’t, you might like the fresh stuff because the taste and texture is far superior to anything store bought.
First, you’ll need a good knife, a small mouthed quart Mason jar and a standard pickle jar that has been thoroughly cleaned. Next, chop a head of cabbage into thin strips, cutting lengthwise then cutting one half at a time into 1/8th inch shreds. In a gallon size freezer bag sprinkle two teaspoons non-iodized salt over the shredded cabbage, seal it with as little air as possible and pound it with your fist or a can of soup or a heavy sauce pan..what ever you like to use. Take out a measure of frustration on this cabbage until you notice it rendering some juice.
It will take a bit of time to stuff as much cabbage as possible into the mason jar from the bag but do so until you see the level of juice rise. After releasing your frustration you will have the patience to persevere. Keep stuffing until the juice rises all the way to the top of the cabbage. Stuff, stuff, stuff! Take a rest if the juice isn’t there yet. After a few minutes the salt will help render enough to cover the cabbage. If it’s not happening after ten minutes or so, a splash of non chlorinated water is all it should take to cover the cabbage. Almost an entire average head of cabbage will fit in the jar.
Invert the clean pickle jar over the mason jar and you will have created the perfect fermenting vessel. It will keep out dust and other unwanted air born stuff yet let carbon dioxide gas escape without blowing up on your counter. That’s it! All you have to do now is wait about a week, maybe more if you like a mushier product. You can taste it along the way to check your progress.
From day two to about day four, if you keep your jar at around 72 °F, you will notice bubbles increasing on the surface each day then diminishing the rest of the week. Those first four days the fermentation is in high gear. It continues but the kraut becomes more mellow and a bit softer in the last four days. You don’t want it to go so far as to get it too mushy or the good bacteria will have languished, thus, the product is less beneficial.
It is important for the cabbage to be covered in liquid and press out all air bubbles. If air gets to the cabbage it may oxidize and turn brown. Having a little brown does not mean a total fail. Just remove the oxidized pieces, place a tight lid on and refrigerate after the 8 days. It will still be perfectly edible.
Our grandparents and ancestors from all countries did these things to preserve food to survive harsh winters. Want to be tough like them? It takes guts! So take care of yours with your own special recipe for sauerkraut.